Introducing “Most Hated” – with much love

With Roi in New York City - April 9, 2009
With Roi in New York City - April 9, 2009

This past week, I attended a seder at the home of my good friend, Israeli journalist Roi Ben-Yehuda. (Read about the multifaith, modern seder Roi prepared here).

Roi’s gotten a lot of love on this blog, but also deserving of some major props is his brother, Yoni – aka “Sneakas”, a very talented rap artist. He’s not your average lyricist or performer – he turns his time on the mic into action for positive social change. I met Sneakas two years ago, when I learned that he’s hard at work using his music to promote constructive dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

Me with Sneakas - April 8, 2009
Me with Sneakas - April 8, 2009

But Sneakas has taken his message of understanding a step further: he’s collaborating with Mazzi, another young rap artist. Mazzi’s an Iranian Muslim, and together they are “Most Hated” – a smart, powerful rap duo that’s set to change both the music scene and the minds and hearts of Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and others the world over. Their single “Tug of War” tells the story of a young Israeli soldier and a would-be suicide bomber from Palestine meeting face to face. Watch the video by clicking here. Please watch through to the end – Sneakas and Mazzi explain the video in a behind-the-scenes commentary you shouldn’t miss.

Publico features Roi Ben-Yehuda and myself

for love is as strong as death".

My necklace: at left, "Allah"; at right, a gift - it bears a verse from Song of Solomon: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is as strong as death."

Publico, Portugal’s largest daily paper, just published an interview with Roi Ben-Yehuda and myself. In it, we discuss how we, an Israeli and a Muslim who are friends, view the conflict in Gaza and our hopes for peace. Click here to view the online edition, and if you’re in Portugal – grab a copy of the print edition!

“As a woman, I have experienced the kind of violence only the worst and most vile of men can perpetrate, yet I do not hate men. I have seen death, I have seen disease and desperation – yet I do not resent God. I cannot claim to know the life of a Palestinian or an Israeli, but I do know that we are greater than the sum of our anger and the scars of our pain. The world would be wise to intervene in material ways – economy, security, diplomacy – but we must also highlight the voices of those Palestinians and Israelis who sincerely call for peace. Images of hate serve only our most destructive aims – a masochistic appeasement of the worst of ourselves. It is far more uncomfortable to see the enemy’s real humanity. I call for us all to take personal responsibility in bringing a new generation of peacemakers forward… the lives of our children are worth far more than what we are doing to one another today.”

– From the interview

Love for the Palestinian people – not sympathy for Hamas

Israeli journalist Roi Ben-Yehuda (I’ve mentioned him before – here and here) has just published a piece in Haaretz on the Muslim response to Hamas. He quotes me, but the most important reason to read his article is that  voices like his are the kind we need to bring hope, peace, and reconciliation into the new year.

A couple of days ago, Roi emailed me to ask: why does it seem as though more Muslims are speaking out against Hamas these days? Good question. Here’s the very short answer I sent him from my BlackBerry.

A Palestinian man cries over the body of his son. (REUTERS / Ismail Zaydah, Gaza)
A Palestinian man cries over the body of his son. (REUTERS / Ismail Zaydah, Gaza)

“The simple reason we see Muslims speaking out against Hamas is this: the organization has proved itself to be terrorist by nature and function, and while the larger Muslim community has always stated its rejection of terrorism, we see the pressing need to make our voices louder in these especially contentious times. The past near-decade in particular has placed the Muslim community at the center of most all public discourse on conflict, terror and violence. To engage the power of peace, we must also speak to the viral nature of violence from even the smallest factions of our own.  In short: supporting innocent Palestinians is not the same as supporting Hamas; just as believing in meaningful dialogue with Jews doesn’t mean support for the deplorable way in which Palestinians have been treated in Hebron.

Further, our dissenting and even outraged voices are nothing new. Recent history shows that over 80% of Palestinians distrust Hamas. Surrounding Arab states aren’t Hamas sympathizers: in fact, the Iranian government is one of Hamas’ only supporters in the region.

One cannot watch the scene unfold – Hamas hiding rocket launchers in residential neighborhoods, for example – and not see that they are effectively using Palestinians as human sacrifices to further their own aims. Muslims who care about Palestinians would never want them sacrificed in such provocations as Hamas’ recent violation of the ceasefire. 
Unfortunately, the Arab world has left the Palestinian people without a reasonable force to look to for help. As Israel obliterates civilians – including children – we run the risk of Hamas emerging as the “freedom fighters” they believe themselves to be. In other words, when a mother has lost her husband and child, when Palestinian children must identify their parents from a pit of 100 bloodied bodies, they understandably look to see who is fighting for them. If Hamas presents itself as the only hope to stop the destruction, that 80% will decrease out of desperation. If the world does not sufficiently aid the Palestinian people, a terrorist may inevitably appear to be a freedom fighter – and it is up to the rest of us to stop disempowering and dehumanizing Palestinians into this non-choice.”

“The formation of a free Palestine is not in the interest of the tyrants and despots that rule the Arab world… If the Arab rulers do not have Israel to demonize, they will have to deal with their own human rights violations.” – El-Farouk Khaki